The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

DUP Pressure Cooker: About to Blow?

With the MLAs back at Stormont, Unionist Revisionist Dr John Coulter assesses the chances of an Executive being established by the 24 November melthdown deadline

Dr John Coulter • 15 May 2006

Will there be renderings of Happy Days Are Here Again, with the 108 cash-starved MLA's trooping their merry way back up Stormont's green, grassy slopes to fulfil Emperor Hain the Horrible's decree of an Executive by 24 November? Or will Hain be screaming Off with yer heads?

Many Assembly members have spent the past almost four years twiddling their thumbs at the taxpayers' expense since Stormont was suspended in October 2002 amid a gloomy cloud of Sinn Fein spying allegations.

The prophets of doom – mostly from unionism's fundamentalist Right-wing – are confidently predicting a total meltdown in November, principally because they're too scared to do a deal with the Shinners.

But there's one glimmer of hope ... the DUP has moved further to the centre ground than even the strife-torn Ulster Unionists under former supremo Davy Trimble.

If the bold Davy and a bunch of his pro-Agreement cronies had headed to Killarney for any British Irish shindig, the dissident rabble rousers led by Ulster’s version of the Prince of Darkness, former Kilkeel-based politician wee Jeffrey Donaldson, would have demanded Trimble be hung, drawn and quartered for treason in gud auld fashioned Puritan Prod style.

But could they sing Monty Python Life of Brian's 'Always Look On The Bright Side of Life'. Why? Because the DUP has become a copy cat of the late Downpatrick MP Brian Faulkner's pro-Assembly Unionists before they became the power-sharing Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.

Let's not forget that Hain and Blair have played their ace card ... money talks. How many of the 30 odd DUP MLAs genuinely need their Stormont salaries to pay the bills?

How many young DUP pups are there in the support teams as research assistants who will be dumped on the dole if Big Paisley either digs in his heels and states 'No Deal', or Peter Robinson does not have the guts to stage a coup and take over the party?

However, the rumour machine claims all the wheeling and dealing within the Paisley camp may not directly be about cutting an agreement with the Shinners, but focuses on the three factions in the DUP lining themselves up for the inevitable leadership bid.

Like it or lump it, the pressure on Blair to announce when he'll hand over being Prime Minister to the tough-talking Scot Gordon Brown has sparked similar gossip Big Ian is about to unveil he's stepping down as North Antrim MP to allow Ian Junior a crack at ascending to daddy's throne.

But the Paisley dynasty's North Antrim stronghold is not a happy camp, according to DUP vibes; vibes which could ripple their way through every constituency in the North.

Some on the hardline ruling Ballymena council group in the heart of the constituency have reportedly threatened to quit if Big Ian sups soup with the Shinners.

Then there's the barnstorming barrister and MEP Jim Allister who lives in the constituency. Rumour has it a sizeable chunk of DUP grassroots wants him to replace Baby Ian as the new Westminster MP – and DUP boss.

Robinson's power base is rumoured to be the Assembly party, where he supposedly commands the loyalty of about half the MLAs. The Paisley camp allegedly dominate the ruling DUP executive; Allister's strength is his rapidly growing popularity among rank and file members and voters.

In deciding if the lid will finally off the DUP pressure cooker, we need to keep an eye on the utterances of four key MLAs.

These are: Mervyn Storey from Ballymoney, who would make an excellent deputy to Allister; leading fundamentalist and Independent Orange boss George Dawson, as well as Paisley loyalists, the influential husband and wife team Nigel and Diane Dodds.

The forthcoming battle for the hearts and minds of the DUP will be fought in the coming weeks in the pews of the Protestant churches. Paisley himself can largely rely on the main fundamentalist denominations, such as his own Free Presbyterians, the Baptists, most Pentecostalists and some Brethren.

The Robinson wing will draw its support from the so-called Big Three mainstream Prod churches – Presbyterian, Methodist, and Church of Ireland.

If Allister is smart – and he's reckoned to be one of the top political thinkers in unionism – he'll wait until after the inevitable Paisley Robinson civil war and pick off the weakened winner.

Allister should now plan for two scenarios – does he aim for total control of the DUP, forcing the Robinson camp to team up with Reg Empey's UUP? Or does he form a new radical Right wing movement outside the Assembly based on the successful Seventies model of Ulster Vanguard?

Another thing is for sure, in the tight Assembly bartering corner, the votes of four MLAs could be vital – Independents Paul Berry and Kieran Deeny, as well as UKUP boss Bob McCartney and PUP supremo David Ervine.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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